The Joint Medical Store (JMS), a joint venture of the Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau (UCMB) and the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB) is setting up a medical oxygen plant with a capacity to manufacture up to 150 cylinders per hour.
Dr Bildard Baguma, the Executive Director JMS said that they are investing one million US Dollars in the facility that is expected to be up and running in the next two months.
This facility will produce enough to cover all their affiliated entities including the Private Not-for-Profit hospitals and private facilities, according to Baguma. He notes that the height of the COVID-19 second wave that started in early May showed that the country didn’t have enough supplies as they could often scramble at the few suppliers leading to late deliveries to facilities.
It’s only later he says that they struck a supply deal with Roofings Limited which also came with challenges of accessing cylinders that were not only costly at the time but also largely inaccessible.
The new development, however, comes at a time when different hospitals and other health entities are stocking up oxygen guarding against similar crises that may arise. For instance just last month, UNICEF launched a portable oxygen initiative called an Oxygen Plant-in-a-Box package which is targeted at developing countries facing oxygen challenges.
Each of such portable plants has the capacity to produce up to 720,000 litres of oxygen per day which is enough for supplying the oxygen needs of about 50-60 COVID-19 patients or more than 100 children with severe pneumonia, according to information on the UNICEF website.
Uganda was the first country to place an order for the plant and in addition to the Mulago Specialized hospital which at some point run out of oxygen supplies have set up additional plants.
Dr Rosemary Byanyima, the Mulago Deputy Director says they now have enough supplies that can cover all the wards in which COVID-19 patients were admitted at the same time with other departments that consume large volumes of oxygen in the hospital.